Driver Fatigue: A Common Cause Of Truck Accidents

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Duncan Firm

According to the AAA Foundation, an average of one in five motor vehicle accidents is caused by driver fatigue. Also, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a study between 2001 and 2003 that found fatigue was associated with 13 percent of accidents involving truck drivers. As sobering as these statistics are, the reality is that many truck drivers feel pressured to make their deliveries at the cost of sleep.

What Is Driver Fatigue?

Put simply, driver fatigue is the loss of cognitive ability due to lack of sleep. It can negatively affect one’s driving performance in terms of safety, reflexes, and decision-making. For truck drivers, the risk of fatigue is exacerbated by long hours on the road. 

Crash Characteristics

Crashes that occur as a result of driver fatigue tend to share similar characteristics. Often, they occur during peak sleepiness hours between midnight and 6 a.m., and the driver is typically alone in the vehicle. Usually, the crash is caused by a single vehicle veering from a high-speed roadway and, unfortunately, often has serious repercussions. 

Because most commercial trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds, they are difficult to stop or slow down at high speeds. Their size and impact during a crash almost always result in significant damage to life and property. Compounding the issue is the fact that drivers who nod off usually do not wake in time to take corrective action, adding to the crash impact of the truck accident

Safety Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates that interstate truck drivers follow regulations designed for the safety of all motorists.

Passenger-carrying drivers can drive no more than 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off-duty. They also may not drive after 15 hours on-duty, following eight hours off-duty. Similarly, property-carrying drivers can drive no more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. In addition, they may not drive after 14 hours on-duty, following 10 hours off duty, and they must take a 30-minute break after eight consecutive hours of driving.

Despite these regulations, many truck drivers succumb to driver fatigue while at the wheel. As there is currently no objective test or analysis that can ascertain the degree of sleepiness experienced by a fatigued driver, most data we currently have is self-reported and inferential. With continued improvements to regulation, organizational climate, and driver self-awareness and education, an improvement in crash rates should follow. Contact your truck accident attorney today at Duncan Firm to learn more or determine if you have a case. 

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